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Techniques of the heroes: David Gilmour (part 2) - Comfortably Numb Solo

Rating: 1 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: Leokisomma, on May 17,2012, in category Guitar Legends Views: this lesson has been read 3494 times
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Okay, so in the first part of this series I gave you an insight into how David Gilmour approaches playing and soloing, so in this lesson I’m going to show you how to play probably his most infamous solo, from the track ‘comfortably numb’ off the Pink Floyd Album ‘The Wall’.

Now at first listen comfortably numb solo sounds like the kind of solo that will take years for someone to be able to play, but in comparison to a lot of solos it relatively simple. There isn’t much in the way of fast playing during this solo, but what matters is that David Gilmour is aware of how each note in the scale he’s using will sound at any given moment during the solo.

Throughout this solo he is taking advantage of the drum beats and trying to get his phrases to land on as many of the drum beats as possible, giving his solo a very ‘precise’ feel to it. You can actually practice this either by using a metronome or by simply tapping your foot and making sure to get as many notes as possible to land at the same time as you tap your foot. The point of this is to increase your ability to play notes at a precise time, which is done a lot throughout this solo.

This solo uses the natural minor scale (also called the Aeolian mode for those of you who know your scale theory) in the key of B. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it before, I’ll write it out in as many positions on the fret-board as possible below so that you have the best idea of what the scale looks like. I have highlighted the root notes, which are the notes that the scale starts on, and then repeats itself every time it reaches another one of these notes.

These aren’t the only positions that the scale appears, but I just wanted to show you the positions that you would be most likely to use, or most likely to see David Gilmour using. Also I’ve written it out in two octaves each time, i.e. the scale repeats itself once each time I’ve written it out so that the pattern becomes more familiar to you.

(Please note that this assumes your guitar is in standard E tuning)

Natural minor scale/Aeolian mode in the key of B

B Natural Minor Scale Position 1

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|------------5----7-|
B||------------------|------------------||----------------5-|-7----8------------|
G||------------------|-----------2----4-||-4----6----7------|-------------------|
D||----------------2-|-4----5-----------||------------------|-------------------|
A||-2----4----5------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

B Natural Minor Scale Position 2

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||------------------|------------------||------------------|-----------10---12-|
G||------------------|------------------||----------------9-|-11----12----------|
D||------------------|-----------7----9-||-9----11---12-----|-------------------|
A||----------------7-|-9----10----------||------------------|-------------------|
E||-7----9----10-----|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

B Natural Minor Scale Position 3

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-----------17---19-|
B||------------------|------------------||---------------17-|-19---20-----------|
G||------------------|----------14---16-||-16---18---19-----|-------------------|
D||---------------14-|-16---17----------||------------------|-------------------|
A||-14---16---17-----|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

B Natural Minor Scale Position 4

E||------------------|------------------||---------------12-|-14---15---17---19-|
B||------------------|----------10---12-||-12---14---15-----|-------------------|
G||----------------9-|-11---12----------||------------------|-------------------|
D||-9----11---12-----|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

Now, onto getting the style of his solo: there are obviously some parts of the solo that he keeps the same pretty much every time he plays this song because they get him the best sound. The first thing you need to be aware of before you try improvising over the chords going on in the background during comfortably numb, is what those chords are, and when they are played.

Here below are the power chords played on a guitar in the correct timing. The numbers above the tab are the beats in each bar, like a metronome counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4,” and so on, so that you get a better idea of where each chord falls.

    1    2    3    4   1    2    3    4    1    2    3    4   1    2    3    4
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
G||-4----------------|------------------||-2----------------|-------------------|
D||-4----------------|------------------||-2----------------|-------------------|
A||-2----------------|------------------||-0----------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

    1    2    3    4   1    2    3    4    1    2    3    4   1    2    3    4
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
G||------------------|------------------||-4----------------|-------------------|
D||-5--------------4-|-2----------------||-4----------------|-------------------|
A||-5--------------4-|-2----------------||-2----------------|-------------------|
E||-3--------------2-|-0----------------||------------------|-------------------|

Notice that one of the chord falls just before the next bar? This means that you can’t simply leave the same gap between all of the notes. Also because there are two chords very close to each other, this part of the riff has the most going on. Playing more notes around this part of the music will give it more power as there is already change happening in the music. This doesn’t go for all music however, but in this case the solo tends to have more notes in it whenever it hits this part of the section going on behind it, whether it’s a live version or the studio version.

Here are a few licks that David Gilmour tends to keep in the solo pretty much all the time. Please note that I have just put in the licks, the actual timing will require you to listen to the actual track as tab is not the best form to put timing into music.

Also I am using the Live 8 version of comfortably numb as my reference as the solo is longer live than in the studio, and I thought it would interest people to see who he plays this fantastic solo live.

Tab key:-

--4-- = pluck the string shown while fretting the string on the fret numbered

--h6- = hammer-on your finger onto the string on the fret numbered, doesn't require the string to be plucked

--p2- = pull-off your finger from the string shown to sound a note while fretting the string on the fret numbered

-8b9- = luck the string shown while fretting the string on the fret numbered, then bend the string until the note sounded becomes the same as the note sounded on the fret shown to the right of the b. E.g., 8b9 means pluck the string while fretting the string on the 8th fret, then bend the string one semitone/one fret higher in pitch.

-8b9r8- = same a regular bend but allow string to return to regular position on fret numbered; think of b as meaning bend, and r as meaning relax

--t12- = tap on the fret numbered firmly with one of the fingers in your plucking hand

-t9r5- = tap on the fret numbered firmly with one of the fingers in your plucking hand then release your finger from the string either by simply pulling it off or twanging it, but fret the string on the fret numbered to sound that note after the finger tapping the string has been removed

-mb7- = bend the string slightly after plucking the string number shown, but don't bend it so that raises the note in pitch by a fret.

/ = Slide finger(s) up the fret-board to the fret shown

\ = Slide finger(s) down the fret-board to the fret shown

--9v- = use vibrato by wavering the string up and down by bending it to get a sort of wavy sound

--9ap-- = use alternate picking, i.e. pluck the string when your hand moves back up with the pick as well as when your hand moves down with it, to achieve a mandolin-like sound. I will only put this on tab when there isn’t enough room for a lot of repeated notes.

The opening phrase to the comfortably numb solo

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
G||-7---9---11v------|------------------||-9b11----7h9--9v--|--9p7--------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|--------9----12----|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||------12-14-12b15-|r12--10-12--mb15/-||------------------|-------------------|
G||-/14--------------|------------------||-7--9--mb9--p7----|-------------------|
D||------------------|------------------||---------------9v-|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

 

Really high up phrase about half way through the comfortably numb solo

E||-19--19-19-19-21--|-22v----22--21-22-||-21--22--22--21---|-19v---------------|
B||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
G||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

E||--------17-17-----|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||-17/19-----19-----|-17b19r17-17v-----||-15—17--mb17-p15--|-------------------|
G||------------------|------------------||------------------|-16v---------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

 

Unison bending phrase near the end of the Live 8 comfortably numb solo

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||-12-----12---12---|-12---------------||-12-----12---12---|-12----------------|
G||-14b16--16---16---|-16r14------------||-14b16--16---16---|-16r14-------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||-14-----14---14---|-14---------------||-14-----14---14---|-14----------------|
G||-16b18--18---18---|-18r16------------||-16b18--18---18---|-18r16-------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
B||-15-----15---15---|-15---------------||-17-----17---17---|-17----------------|
G||-17b19--19---19---|-19r17------------||-19b21--21---21---|-21r19-------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

E||-------17-------17|-------17-------17||----17--17-/19-19v|-------------------|
B||-19-19----19-19---|-19-19----19-19---||-19---------------|-------------------|
G||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
D||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

The rest of the comfortably numb solo really is possible just by practicing using the minor pentatonic scale that I showed you at the start of this lesson. What you really need to focus on in order to make this solo work though is the chords going on in the back ground. No matter how many different versions of comfortably numb solo David Gilmour plays, he always makes sure that he sticks close to the chords so that the entire band is lending power to the notes he’s playing. All you have to do is listen to the pulse version of comfortably numb to see how powerful this technique is.

Apart from this, the only real advice I can give you is to really focus on what the music feels like rather than focusing on technique for this song. The reason for this is simply because this solo is all about feel rather than doing back-flips with your fingers, and believe it or not it can be a lot harder to play this way if you are not used to it.

That’s pretty much it for this lesson, but soon I’ll be uploading a lesson on how to play the solo from keep talking as well. If any of you guys want any specific solos dissected, then just let me know and I’ll get right to it.

I hope this has helped some of you guys out there.

Take care and I’ll see you next time! 

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